Step by step, a persistent coalition of hiking and biking advocates and city, township and county officials have neared a long-time goal: a pedestrian and bike trail circling Boardman Lake. They should get a chance to celebrate reaching the halfway point later this year, but there remains much to be done.
This spring, if city officials can get the needed permits, work should begin on the northernmost portion of the trail, which would create a link from 10th Street east to a 240-foot pedestrian/bike bridge over the Boardman, a boardwalk to span wetlands and a paved path that would end up behind the Traverse Area District Library.
There, riders or walkers could link to the regional TART trail system (which stretches from Suttons Bay to Acme) or the two miles or so of the east arm of the Boardman loop.
The northern span is a key part of the trail effort. But it is equally important as an alternate route for pedestrians and bikers to get from west-side neighborhoods to the east side of the lake and the library without having to maneuver their way along busy Eighth Street.
That has been a transportation goal for the city for years, but finding Eighth Street solutions proved difficult. Now, the new trail could offer an important option.
Once the northern span is done, the biggest challenge will still remain -- creating the west side of the proposed loop from where the new segment will end at 10th Street south to Logan's Landing and Medalie Park.
That will be a long and winding road, and will likely cost substantially more than other segments because of the need for bridges and more boardwalk.
But sometime this year, walkers and bikers should be able to travel from Medalie Park along the east side of the lake all the way to 10th Street. That's an achievement in itself and could immediately become one of the most-used trails in the region.
The new project is budgeted at about $1.15 million, with some $140,000 yet to be raised. Traverse City, Grand Traverse County and Garfield Township each kicked in $160,000 to match a state Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund grant of $480,000.
Not everyone is happy about the new link. The owner of the Riverine Apartments worries that trail users will use the complex's parking lot to access the trail, increasing traffic and taking up parking spaces. That's a legitimate concern but should be dealt with as an enforcement issue.
The region's trail system has come a long, long way in the past 20 years or so, and despite dire warnings of trespassing, a lack of users and other troubles, it has done nothing but thrive. There is every reason to believe the Boardman loop will do the same.